The Great Beta Reader Turns Enforcer

IT’S BEEN TOO LONG.

After a long spell of essay-writing and reading-for-study (which is still ongoing, until early June at least), there has been very little writing for fun.

Fortunately, I have a very hands-on assistant who we all know as the Great Beta Reader, i.e. I’ve mentioned her before. She’s a real person, not a voice, although in some circles she’s known as The Mouth.

Over a cup of tea and a ciggie (otherwise known as an informal meeting), and with both of us bored of my whining about my apparent lack of enthusiasm for anything anymore, it was decided that I needed a set of regular, enforceable goals.

Enter Goals.

The new goal is to write 500 words of fiction, whatever takes my fancy, and have it on the Great Beta Reader’s desk (virtual or physical desk, whichever’s most convenient) by 5pm on Friday or I have to pay her five pounds. Every week.

And that’s it.

For the past few weeks, it’s been working quite nicely. I’m excited about writing, and it’s so small, and manageable, and doable, that not even I can find an excuse not to do it.

Plus, it saves me five pounds.

 

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The Sea Children

New Stories and Sir Peter Ustinov

I’m writing this after a long hiatus of not writing. I feel like I’m always saying I’ve not written anything for a very long time but… and then very little happens. I blame this phenomena on studying and a sudden, inexplicable lack of confidence over the past year and a half.

So.

I’m writing this after a long hiatus, but, there have been movements, and I should celebrate them instead of focusing on the negatives.

Back in February, my short story ‘Automaton’ was accepted for the fourth issue Phantaxis Magazine February 2017of Phantaxis Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine (see a handy illustration nicked from the Phantaxis website to the right). I loved writing this story (lots of virtual window shopping for increasingly ridiculous products) and was inspired by Mac McClelland’s article over at motherjones.com. In the piece, McClelland goes undercover and describes the back-breaking and thankless work for what she calls “Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc”. Wink wink.

Also this month, my contemporary short-story ‘The Sea Children’ found a home at The Saturday Evening Post for their Fiction Friday slot. This started life as a fisherman-themed competition entry for Writing Magazine and gradually evolved into a longer story after positive feedback from Granta and other publications. You can read it online here.

In other news, I finished up my latest uni module with a staggeringly bad exam. My answers were… lacking. Despite this, I’m glad to see the back of forced reading for a while; on my to-read-for-fun list this month is Expanse: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey and Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories. Like most people, I binge-watched The Expanse on Netflix and pinched The Great Beta Reader’s copy (she’s heavily into space operas now, and wants to be a Space Pilot; nothing else will do).

I’ve also set myself a seemingly impossible goal of writing a pilot script for this year’s Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award, starting now with a July 1st deadline *gulp*. I won’t lie, I’ve spent a lot of today staring out of the window, eating a Pot Noodle, inwardly freaking out. I’m telling you lot so I can be held accountable. Happily, there’s the flickering image of a potential opening scene in my mind, so things are in motion…

Onwards and upwards.

 

4 Weirdly Positive Blog Posts For Anxiety-prone Writers

“You probably know to ask yourself, ‘What do I want?’ Here’s a way better question”

This blog post by Mark Manson takes a well-worn life question and turns it on its head. Instead of asking ‘What will make me happy?’ he suggests asking yourself ‘What am I willing to struggle for?’ The more I read the more I thought about my own struggles, the sacrifices I have made and the invitable struggles to come to devote myself to writing. I thought about it, and realised that although I’ve been struggling, I’ve not done enough hard graft, put in enough sweat, blood and tears, to justify my sulking.

“15 Things You Need To Know About People Who Have Concealed Anxiety”

I’m not one for writing about what I like to call my ‘black cloud’ – in fact, this might be the first time. I’m also not an advocate of self-diagnosis on the internet; it can lead to trouble. But when I stumbled on this post about concealed anxiety via that lecherous uncle that is Facebook, I got excited. In a way not dissimilar to having someone else see solutions to your problems more clearly than you can, this easy to digest blog post had me ticking off all the things I recognised in myself. It doesn’t necessarily cure the thing, but seeing it laid out logically made me think logically about it. And it really helped.

“To Be Happier, Start Thinking More About Your Death”

I love this New York Times article from Arthur C. Brooks. My sisters, my mother and I talk about death all the time: our top five funeral songs, what the most environmentally friendly burials are, coffin preference: wicker or mahogany? We even discuss who’ll go first, as casually as other families might discuss who’ll have the first baby, or their own mortgage by the time they’re thirty. Morbid? In some circles. Practical? Absolutely. We’re pretty proud of it.

“25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing”

Or any of the blog posts on Chuck Wendig’s website really. He doesn’t mince his words. And he’s funny, which helps immensely.